I first came across the name of Arthur Lally in the last chapter of Frank Unwin’s book Reflections on the Mersey [Gallery Press 1983]. Entitled Dancing Years he provides a wide-ranging account of the many Merseyside bands and singers who played the various dance halls between the war.
Arthur Vincent Lally was born in Liverpool on 5th November 1900, the son of tramway motorman James and his wife Charlotte (née Hughes). The family lived in the Kirkdale area at 18 Juliet Street L5. They later moved to 7 Dodge Street L7, off Wavertree Road (both houses now demolished). In his early years he went to sea, serving as a steward on a number of transatlantic trips. The Lally’s were a musical family, his father having been an army band conductor who gave Arthur his first music lessons. His brother Jimmy was a pianist at the New Brighton Tower Ballroom for many years and was later a very successful arranger for some of the country’s leading bands and his other brother Albert played piano with a number of Liverpool bands.
Arthur played clarinet, and alto and baritone saxophone. He moved to London in the 1920’s to pursue his musical career spending some years with the famous Savoy Orpheans at the Savoy Hotel before becoming the leader of the famous Ambrose’s ‘second band’, the Blue Lyres, at the prestigious Dorchester Hotel in the 1930’s. In 1929 he organised the Decca record company’s first studio house band and was involved in many of their recordings.
He formed his own band which performed under a variety of names, including Arthur lally’s Million-Airs, The Rhythm Maniacs. From 1933 onwards he did a great deal of freelance work as well as being musical director at Decca.
As I haven’t been able to cross-check this with any other source I will quote verbatim from the Al Bowlly Club website on Arthur Lally’s final days. “Apart from music Arthur Lally had a passion for motor-cars, as well as interests in electrical engineering and wireless. He also had a full pilot's licence, and in 1940 he asked to be allowed to pilot a bomb-laden airplane to Hitler's mountain hide-out in Berchtesgaden. The request was turned down by the War Office, and sadly due to depression, he took his own life in his Richmond-upon-Thames home in August 1940.”.
Arthur Lally pictured in Ambrose's orchestra in 1928
This clipping from the Chichester Observer gives a little of the flavour of an Arthur Lally performance.
I have only found a few sources on Arthur Lally. the Al Bowlly Club website has a short summary of his career and he is mentioned on a site dedicated to the singer Elsie Carlisle. There is a 9 page article on him in Issue Number 150 of the print and digital magazine Memory Lane but I have not read this as a subscription is required.
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